THE ACES IN THE PACK FOR NRL PREMIERSHIP CONTENDERS
1. BRISBANE: COREY PARKER – The incredible offloading ability of State of Origin’s man of the series is crucial to the Broncos’ attacking thrust.
2. NORTH QUEENSLAND: JOHNATHAN THURSTON – There is no doubt shutting down Thurston is crucial to stunting the Cowboys’ offence, but doing it is another matter.
3. SYDNEY ROOSTERS: JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES – The big Kiwi has emerged as the competition’s form prop as the Roosters set their sights on a vital top two finish.
4. SOUTH SYDNEY: ADAM REYNOLDS – Greg Inglis is the freak who can break a game apart, but everything Souths do is based around Reynolds and his kicking game, the best in the NRL.
5. CRONULLA: WADE GRAHAM – Sharks halves Jeff Robson and Jack Bird are neither the NRL’s most conventional nor creative scrumbase combination, so much of the team’s attack revolves around Graham – one of the premiership’s form players.
6. MELBOURNE: COOPER CRONK – Cameron Smith is the Storm’s general but it is lieutenant Cronk, one of the game’s toughest players, who steers them around.
7. ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA: BENJI MARSHALL – The Dragons’ defence has them within reaching distance of a finals berth, but it’s Marshall’s reinvigorated attacking play that has them capable of piling on the points to worry the heavyweights.
8. CANTERBURY: TRENT HODKINSON – Still hard to believe the Bulldogs are letting this bloke go. A proven big game player who is cool under pressure and demands the ball when the game in on the line.
9. MANLY: JAMIE LYON – Reports of the demise of Lyon’s career have been premature. After an injury-interrupted year the captain has put in two of the best individual efforts in 2015 in back-to-back wins over Brisbane and Souths.